Every year, from September 15th to October 15th, our nation marks Hispanic Heritage Month. During this month, we take time to reflect and to honor the contributions that the diverse people of Hispanic and Latin American origin have made to our nation.

In culture and art, science and medicine, politics and history, war and peace, Latinos have done as much as anyone to make America who we are today.

This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month will be a little different. As we reflect on our past, we cannot escape the fact that present conditions for Latinos are challenging to say the least. For almost four years, Latino communities from Puerto Rico to the U.S.-Mexico border have been under assault from a hostile and xenophobic administration that has separated families, abandoned those in need, and spread fear and hate. The coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately harmed the health and financial security of many Latino families. With disproportionately high rates of infections, hospitalizations, and death, as well as the highest rate of workers unable to work remotely, COVID-19 has been a catastrophe for the Latino community.

Examining our history, we can see that the heritage of Latinos is one, above all, of resilience. Cities that were founded by Latinos centuries ago still stand today as some of America’s greatest and most vibrant. Americans of Hispanic decent have fought for our country, only to find out that we were not always accepted as equal. After centuries of discrimination and second-class citizenship, we fought to claim our rights as Americans, and today we utilize those rights to continue to advocate for our communities. Through it all, we’ve held fast to our heritage and cultures, celebrated our faith and families, and are living embodiments of the American Dream.

As we pay special attention to Latino accomplishments and heritage this month, let us not forget that our American story deserves to be told all year long. Throughout the 116th Congress, the Hispanic Caucus has advocated for the needs of Latinos in every corner of the United States. We have placed particular attention on the accurate portrayal of Latinos in the media and entertainment — including in film, television, publishing, journalism, and more — as these are the image-creating and narrative-defining industries that shape how all Latinos are perceived.

Latino Americans are essential and resilient. We are entrepreneurs, farmworkers, astronauts, teachers, doctors, activists, soldiers, members of Congress, and so much more. Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, we have proven ourselves to be the backbone of American society. This month, we celebrate our heritage of resilience by continuing to fight for a democracy that truly includes us, as we look ahead to one of the most consequential elections of our time — one in which Latino votes are poised to make our biggest impact yet.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro on behalf of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. Castro, a Democrat from San Antonio, chairs the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The guest column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian with the permission of the author. To reach Congressman Castro, email: [email protected]


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